CHENNAI: Dot. Dot. Six.
This reflected West Indies’ approach to T20 cricket for a decade when they pretty much came out with a rule book on how the format ought to be played.
While other countries focused on wicket preservation and minimising dot ball percentages, West Indies looked at power-hitting, clearing boundaries and advanced batting metrics like ‘number of 6s for every 4’.
Their batters became good at this brand of cricket as they kept playing for different franchises across the world. The ultimate win for their strategy came five years ago in Mumbai.
In the semifinal against India, West Indies played 50 dot balls to India’s 27. However, the former scored 146 runs through boundaries compared to India’s 92.
The first truly great global advertisement for the format came in 2007, thanks to Chris Gayle, inarguably T20s greatest batter.
It came in the very first match of the very first World Cup.
His 117 off 57 comprised seven 4s and 10 6s.
The very first ball of the World Cup had gone for a boundary. Even as other teams were decoding the grammar of T20 cricket, Gayle showed them the path.
On Saturday, the 42-year-old briefly flickered in what could be his final game. Two of his last four balls went for six. Fitting because no player has hit as many sixes than Gayle.
The two-time champions’ campaign in the UAE was perhaps destined to fail from the time they decided to stay true to their ethos of dot, dot, six.
On slightly bigger grounds on tired pitches with batters not in the best of form, the strategy was more bust and less boom.
In that context, the tournament’s background has witnessed the kings slowly exiting the stage.
The blowout against England, the retirement of Dwayne Bravo, the slow death innings of Lendl Simmons, the recall of Ravi Rampaul, the exclusion of Sunil Narine and a debut to Roston Chase.
An impromptu guard of honour by Australia to bid farewell to Bravo could easily have been a guard of honour for this batch of superstars.
You could also argue that players from the Caribbean were, by and large, responsible for making the format what it is today: a behemoth capable of taking the ICC to the Olympics.
They went everywhere, played everywhere and played for anyone who promised money.
Sure, that’s been derided by many but that’s just basic economics. Demand and supply. There has always been a constant demand for players from the region.
The truth, though, is that has enabled them to create an unmatched legacy for the national side. 2012? Champions. 2014? Semifinals. 2016? Champions.
In a format most defined by luck, they eliminated it by being too smart.
Will 2022 in Australia be too soon for them to get back to owning the house they built? One thing is sure, they will give it a proper go.
Skipper Kieron Pollard said as much after the match against Australia.
“Don’t settle for doing well in the CPL,” Pollard said when asked about what message he would like to give to the youngsters. “Doing well at the world stage should be the goal.”
Carlos Brathwaite’s 6, 6, 6, 6 naturally launched a 1000 articles on the side’s innate ability to outmuscle and outhit sides. What, though, formed the basis of that side was the gun bowling.
The foundation was built by Samuel Badree and Suleimann Benn, both of whom bowled dry, and Andre Russell and Bravo, who turned water into wine whenever they bowled,
In fact, the unsung hero across their two World Cup wins was Badree who conceded one boundary every 10 balls.
At an economy rate of under 5.6, he also successfully fattened the lamb for the likes of Narine (2012) and Russell and Bravo (2016) to profit later in the innings.
They never had that sort of sequence this time out.
What also cost them in the UAE was the lack of an anchor in the mould of Marlon Samuels, who wrote the book on how to anchor for a team as explosive as this.
Both Chase as well as Simmons were cast in that role but Samuels understood the role to perfection.
In 2012, he was the third leading run-getter (230) at a strike rate of 132.95. In 2016, he was seventh (181) in the list, while striking at 112.42.
In both editions, he emerged as West Indies’ highest run-scorer.
When Brathwaite did his 6, 6, 6, 6 routine, Samuels was at the other end unbeaten on 85 off 66.
Five years later, a vastly changed middle-order frequently struggled for oxygen.
As a result, dot, dot, six was replaced by something approaching dot, wicket, single, dot, wicket, single. If this is indeed going to be the end, like one journalist said in the post match conference, ‘thanks for all the memories’.
All eyes on…
India’s final match is on Monday, but Sunday is the D-Day for India. The result of Afghanistan vs New Zealand match will decide India’s fate in the tournament.
Afghanistan vs New Zealand
To say whole of India will be cheering for Afghanistan is an understatement. For India to stay alive, Afghanistan have to beat New Zealand at Abu Dhabi.
It is not an impossible ask for Afghanistan as they have a quality spin attack to test the Kiwis.
With this being an afternoon game, dew won’t be a factor and even if Afghanistan are bowling second, they stand a good chance. For Kane Williamson & Co, the equation is simple.
If they win on Sunday, they will qualify for the semifinals as the second-placed team behind Pakistan.
Mujeeb Ur Rahman hasn’t played the last two matches because of injury. Should he be fit, he will be a valuable asset to Afghanistan and will further bolster their spin attack.
Live on Star Sports 1 @ 3:30 PM.
Pakistan vs Scotland Live on Star Sports 1 @ 7.30 PM.
26: Opener Martin Guptill has hit 26 boundaries so far, 18 4s and 8 6s. The most by a New Zealand batter in this tournament so far.